Most English holidays have a religious origin. Easter is originally the day to commemorate the
Resurrection of Jesus Christ. But now for most people, Easter is a secular spring holiday, when everyone
hopes to enjoy fine weather, when the days are lengthening fast, when trees are already in bud and leaf,
and spring flowers appear, the most welcome of the year -- violets and primroses, daffodils and narcissi.
For children, Easter means, more than anything else, Easter eggs or chocolate eggs!
Real, natural eggs, do not belong of course to a single season of the year. They are eaten all the year
round (Duck eggs are a rarity in England, and the eggs of smaller birds are rarer still, a luxury for the very
rich and privileged). Eggs are everyday food -- inexpensive, nutritious, and especially good for breakfast.
Their association with spring, when hens begin to lay after the winter, is older than the manufacture of
chocolate eggs. In some places, real eggs are used in an Easter game called “egg-rolling”. They are first
hardboiled and then given to competitors to roll down a slope. The winner is the person whose egg gets to
the bottom first. In some families, the breakfast eggs on Easter Sunday morning are boiled in several pans,
each containing a different vegetable dye, so that when they are served the shells are no longer white or
pale brown in colour, but yellow or pink, blue or green. The dyes do not penetrate the shell of course.
Most British children would be very disappointed if these were the only eggs they had at Easter.
Chocolate Easter eggs are displayed in confectioners as soon as Christmas is over. The smallest and
simplest are inexpensive enough for children to buy with pocket money. These are of two sorts. Very small
ones, perhaps a little longer than an inch in length, are coated thinly with chocolate on the outside and
filled with a sweet soft paste, called fondant. They are wrapped in coloured foil in a variety of patterns.
Slightly larger eggs, a little bigger, as a rule, than the egg of a duck, are hollow. There is nothing inside at
all -- just a wrapped chocolate shell. You break the shell and eat the jagged, irregular pieces.
As Easter approaches, more elaborate eggs than these fill the sweet-shop windows. They are designed
to be given as presents, and the larger ones are expensive. Manufacturers compete in producing pretty and
unusual designs. Chocolate Eggs are often sold in china egg-cups or mugs, or baskets, so that there is
something to enjoy when the chocolate is eaten and forgotten. They are accompanied by all sorts of small
presents designed to appeal to children. They are often decorated with small fluffy chickens, made of wool,
and with feet and beaks in card. And in addition to eggs, there are chickens or rabbits molded in chocolate.
Lucky children may receive several of these as presents from friends or relations.
Special cardboard boxes are on sale at Easter, made in the shape of eggs, but not made of chocolate
and certainly not intended to be eaten. They are just as pretty as any chocolate egg. They are patterned, and
are often finished with lace or ribbon and artificial flowers. They are meant to contain any present that the
giver thinks the receiver would like. As a rule it is quite a small present – handkerchiefs, perhaps, or a scarf,
or a tie. Sometimes a small piece of jewelry will be boxed and wrapped and put inside.
Easter eggs are meant to give enjoyment -- and they do! They are pretty and decorative, they signal
good wishes and shared happiness in the changing seasons. Manufacturers seem able to find new varia-
tions of colour and pattern every year. To my mind though, no springtime pleasure is equal to that of
watching a hen hatch her brood of eggs. Weeks pass, when she must be left undisturbed. Then the time
comes. Just one egg will crack. Then another. Then there is a faint cheeping as first one and then another
of the chicks break the shell from the inside and struggle free of it. The damp feathers that give the newly
hatched chicks such a bedraggled appearance soon dry, and within a few minutes, they are stepping out on
their delicate red legs, bright-eyed, exquisitely fluffy, and pale yellow. Because of modern methods of egg
production this is one pleasure of the early part of the year that is now a rarity, and altogether remote from
the experience of most English children.